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June 08, 2017

Movie Club - 'Nebraska'


Set in the American mid-west, Woody is an alcoholic retiree who thinks he has won $1 million dollars in a sweepstakes prize. Woody becomes convinced he must walk from Montana to Nebraska to collect his winnings in person. He is slow and fragile; only with the help of his nice-guy son, David, does he manage to begin his journey.

Along the way Woody and David visit relatives. The characters which turn up here (including Woody’s wife and other son Ross, as well as two cousins) seem simple, however, as the film develops it is evident there is a complex undercurrent occurring. Woody’s extended family believes he has actually won a million dollars. It is through these peripheral characters that sit on the edge of Woody’s life that we piece together the man Woody once was.
 
 
Nominated for six Academy Awards and a Palme d’Or, Nebraska is a film that ultimately instils a quiet sense of greatness through character and a strong sense of place. The Midwest is highlighted for its bleak bareness and it is beautiful. Characters are revealed slowly, so that by the end of the film we know them as people in our own lives.

The Movie Club will be screening 'Nebraska' on Wednesday 14 June, 6pm sharp at Narellan Library. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided, BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening for a short discussion about the film. See the discussion questions to get some ideas.

May 18, 2017

Book Review: 'Sitting still like a frog: mindfulness exercises for kids (and their parents)' By Eline Snel.


Mindfulness is about being present; it focuses on breathing, relaxing, paying attention. In this sense, mindfulness is becoming a powerful tool to support mental health. This book discusses a variety of ways that mindfulness benefits kids and their parents, as well as providing short and easy activities to help parents guide and assist children.  

Author, Eline Snel, is a therapist that has spent the last 20 years working on mindfulness programs for kids. Snel also draws upon personal experiences raising her own children, and how mindfulness worked for her situation. In this way, the book is very open and sharing, providing personal experiences that support the exercises.

The book explains what mindfulness is in an easy to understand tone. The strategies provided will help kids to learn to be more calm and focused, fall asleep, manage anger and other difficult feelings, and become more aware of what’s going on around them. There is a CD in the book that will help to complete the exercises.  
Reserve a copy here.

May 08, 2017

Movie Club - 'The Usual Suspects'


When a man by the name of Verbal is brought in for questioning, he tells an almost unbelievable story. Verbal recounts the story in flashback, of five criminals who meet in a police line-up who decide to band together to perform a vengeful heist, which leads them further into crime.
The Usual Suspects is an intricate film of intense, sometimes superfluous, editing that reveals a plot of mystery and revelations. It is part crime, part mystery part film-noir and relies on plot and post-editing to grip the viewer to the very end.
Full of violent twists, and the mysterious Keyser Soze, the film requires the viewer to watch closely, almost demanding it to be watched a second time over. However the acting is fluid, the plot crafted meticulously and the script witty.
The film won two Academy Awards, one of which was for ‘Best Original Screenplay’,  it also won two BAFTAs for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ and ‘Best Editing’. The film’s intense editing and intense plot will keep you on your toes.
The Movie Club will be screening 'The Usual Suspects' on Wednesday 10 May, 6pm sharp at Narellan Library. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided, BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening for a short discussion about the film. See the discussion questions to get some ideas.

May 04, 2017

Book Review: 'The Little Book of Hygge' By Meik Wiking.


A small book full of big ideas, ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ is all about finding happiness and cosiness to support your wellbeing. Hygge is a Danish term that roughly means to create an atmosphere or sense of cosiness.
‘You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right’ (‘The Little Book of Hygge’, Meik Wiking).


Author, Meik Wiking, is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, which is commonly known as the happiest country in the world. In his book, Meik shares the knowledge he has learnt about happiness. He believes the Danish concept of ‘hygge’ is the key to leading a happier life.
Full of interesting facts, including a Hygge Manifesto, the book covers everything from using lighting to create a more ‘hyggelig’ atmosphere, to the importance of hot drinks and pillows. However, it also discusses the integral role of family and friends and securing a good work/life balance.
Reserve a copy here.

April 21, 2017

Book Review - 'Seven walks: Cape Leeuwin to Bundeena' By Tom Carment; photography by Michael Wee.


Photographer Michael Wee and painter/writer Tom Carment, have chronicled their experience of some great walks of Australia.
Combining photographs, paintings and words, the book provides anecdotal experience along with the history of the places traversed.  It is nostalgic and full of awe for the wild and varied landscapes that are distinctly Australian.
 

The book has a bit of everything: history, humour and art. You may find things you are familiar with, such as the Coast Walk in NSW, or unfamiliar things such as The Overland Track of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania.
Available here.

April 05, 2017

Movie Club - 'The Artist'

This month the Movie Club will be screening 'The Artist'. A 2011 film made in the style of the silent-era: black-and-white and no talking (in this case, minimal talking). The film traverses many genres – comedy, romance, tragedy and melodrama – to form a coherent story of George Valentin.

George is at the top of his game as a silent film actor, he is famous and in-demand. He meets Peppy at a film premiere, and again later when she begins working as a film extra. There is chemistry between the two and Peppy continues to get work as an actor. When talking movies become popular, George refuses to perform in them, insisting silent film is an art form unlike the ‘talkies’. As a consequence of this George loses his career, wife and money, while Peppy becomes a star of the new talking films.


 
The film is entertaining from the  start, with a tight opening scene of a ‘film-within-a-film’, to George and Peppy shooting a dance sequence over and over while slowly and beautifully realising they are falling in love, to George firing his chauffeur because he hasn’t paid him in a year.
 
There is no need for talking in this film, the actions speak clearly for themselves, and they are beautiful. It is clear the film is a ‘love letter to cinema’, as director Michel Hazanavicius intended. 

'The Artist' will be showing on Wednesday 12 April, 6pm sharp at Narellan Library. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided, BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening for a short discussion about the film. See the discussion questions to get some ideas.

March 20, 2017

Book Review - 'The One Plus One' By Jojo Moyes


Jess has it tough—two jobs, an estranged husband who doesn’t contribute any child support, a stepson who gets bullied, a gifted daughter who due to financial difficulties cannot get a top education, and a guard dog that sleeps more than guards.
Ed is a successful man living in the city, recently divorced but the owner of two homes and two cars and eats out every night. After a bad business decision Ed is investigated for insider trading. To hang low while his case is sorted he retreats to his seaside home where he meets Jess – his cleaner.


 
From here Jess and Ed’s lives are thrown together out of necessity—necessary because Jess needs to get her daughter to a maths Olympiad in order to win the prize money to get her through private school, and necessary because Ed has realised how bad loneliness is, and is also in need to redeem himself from his own conscious. 
The book starts out as a dysfunctional family drama and slowly ebbs into romance a little bit before the half way point. It’s not soppy romance either, but the kind that seems natural and not forced.
Available in print or audiobook and eAudio

March 13, 2017

Book Review - 'Walks, Tracks and Trails of New South Wales' By Derrick Stone

This book provides a thorough listing of 140 of the best walks, tracks and trails in New South Wales, located in national parks, coastal parks, state forests, historic parks, conservation lands, and local government areas.


You don’t need to be an experienced hiker, the walks listed in this book are ideal for the moderately fit individual. 

Available in print or eBook

 

March 06, 2017

Movie Club - Happy-Go-Lucky


This month the Movie Club will be screening 'Happy-Go-Lucky'. Written and directed by Mike Leigh, ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ is a character-driven film that follows the protagonist, Poppy, as she experiences some ups and downs in her life. Poppy is a 30-something school teacher living in London. She is optimistic, chirpy and happy all of the time, it is not a superficial act, it is just who Poppy is. Poppy lives with her friend and co-worker, Zoe, who acts as a kind of moral compass in a film that combines extreme optimism with extreme pessimism (in the form of Scott). Scott is a narcissistic driving instructor whom Poppy seeks out for driving lessons.
The film relies on a series of events that slowly reveal the characters of Poppy and Scott. There is no major dramatic plot or action sequence, rather we meander through the everyday life of Poppy: as she goes to work and deals with a problematic student, as she converses with a homeless man, as she takes salsa classes, as she visits her younger sister Helen, as she takes driving lessons with Scott. It is through these sequential shots of Poppy’s life that we build-up a knowledge base that reveals layers of Poppy’s character. Dramatic tension is maintained throughout by the relationship between Poppy and Scott.
 
The film is interesting not only for its character study of Poppy, but also its depiction of gender and stereotypes. Most of the characters in the film are female, except for Scott and Tim. Tim is only a minor character, and Scott is presented as aggressive, impulsive and an unlikeable male. The lead character here is Poppy, the film is Poppy’s film, and there is no male counter-part that she ever needs to rely upon. To add to this, Poppy defies the norms of female happiness; rather than gaining a sense of meaning from a man, children or family, Poppy sources fulfilment from things such as work, flamenco dance classes, trampolining, and friends.
Nominated for an Academy Award, the film is funny and light, yet full of wise lessons and deep emotion.

'Happy-Go-Lucky' will be showing on Wednesday 8 March, 6pm at Narellan Library. Tea, coffee and biscuits provided, BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening for a short discussion about the film.

 

February 27, 2017

Book Review - 'Turkish flavours: recipes from a seaside café' By Sevtap Yuce


Written by Turkish chef, Sevtap Yuce, who grew up in Turkey and now lives and owns a restaurant in Australia, 'Turkish Flavours: recipes from a seaside café' consists of classic Turkish dishes with an inspired modern feel.



The book is organised into chapters according to dish type, and include chapters on Mezze and salads. The recipes are easy to read and simple to follow. The book also contains beautiful images of food that will make you want to start cooking right away.

You will find traditional dishes such as koftes, menemen and dolmades as well as yummy sweets such as baklava and yoghurt and olive oil cake. This is for anyone interested in Turkish cooking, or simply tasty food.

February 20, 2017

Book Review - 'The Lake' By Banana Yoshimoto


A novel of tender love and slow, unfurling mystery, Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto folds readers into the lives of Chihiro and Nakajima.
The Lake is narrated by Chihiro, a painter who was born out of wedlock and raised by her unorthodox parents in a small country town. When her mother dies, Chihiro moves to the city. It is here that she meets Nakajima, her neighbour.  The novel courses the two as they fall in love, however Nakajima hides a secret—a secret that Chihiro needs to know if they want to continue their relationship.
 
 

Yoshimoto’s characters are vivid and nuanced, and the prose is strong in its observant nature, for instance, “Of course, it’s true that sometimes the pink at sunrise somehow seems brighter than the pink at sunset, and that when you’re feeling down the landscape seems darker too – you see things through the filter of your own sensibility. But the things themselves, out there, they don’t change.”
For a relatively short novel there is a great sense of emotional depth at play here.
 

February 13, 2017

Book Review - A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled By Ruby Wax

'A wonderful book full of passion, verve and humor'
Mark Williams, author of Mindfulness : A practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

Ruby Wax is a comedian and TV writer who holds a Master's degree in Mindfulness- based Cognitive Therapy from Oxford University. She has recently been awarded an OBE for services to mental health.

Outrageously witty, Ruby Wax gives out mindfulness advice about relationships, for parents, children and teenagers. A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled contains a six week course based on her studies of Mindfulness- based Cognitive Therapy with Mark Williams at Oxford University. Containing nine chapters and filled with humor, a great read. Anne

February 06, 2017

Book Review - You got this : Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world By Maya S Penn

"Discover the magic inside you. Read this book!"
Gabrielle Bernstein

You got this! Addresses questions we all have at times in our life like-
What will I do with my Life?
What makes me unique?
Can one person really change the world?



Maya offers inspiration and a hands on guide to help you find your passion. You are shown how to turn your passion into action, and how to find your place in the world.
Maya Penn has done a lot in her first 15 years. Starting a company, being an award winning designer, philanthropist and animator. She has also given Ted talks and been a guest on the view. An inspiring read Anne

February 03, 2017

Movie Club - Magnolia


This month the Movie Club will be screening ‘Magnolia’, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring an ensemble cast that includes Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly and Julianne Moore.
‘Magnolia’ tells the story of multiple characters living in LA over the course of one day. These characters each have their own problems but the overarching schema of the film is that their lives coincidentally intertwine. The connections between these characters provide space to deconstruct universal themes of forgiveness, regret, death, fear of failure and failing relationships.
The film opens with a series of coincidences and it is this which sets the tone for the entire film; as the film states: ‘…These strange things happen all the time.’ Characters are caught up in their own lives and their own problems, this is highlighted by the episodic rhythm of the film—moving from one character to another—and seeing how unaware each is of the people so near to them.

The film plays with the idea of coincidence—how we can never really plan or prepare for anything in life. Director Paul Thomas Anderson is making a statement here, the epic-ness of the everyday.
‘Magnolia’ was nominated for two Golden Globes and three Academy Awards.
The film will be screened on Wednesday 8 February at 6pm at Narellan Library, Corner of Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan. Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided, BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening for a short discussion about the film.
 *Please note this film is rated MA15+ and contains strong coarse language and themes. 

January 30, 2017

Book Review : The Universe has your back : How to feel safe and trust your life no matter what By Gabrielle Bernstein

In her latest book New York Times bestselling author Gabrielle Bernstein teaches readers how to turn their fear into faith in order to live a wonderful life. In  The Universe has your back  each story and lesson guides readers to release the blocks to what they most want in life : happiness, security and clear direction.
These lessons help readers to relinquish the need to control the outcomes of their life so they can relax into a sense of certainty and freedom. Readers will learn to stop chasing life and learn to truly live. The book gives readers the confidence to make the shift from fear to faith.  When readers use the tools in this book, they'll begin to find strength when they are feeling low, synchronicity and support when they're lost, and joy when they are otherwise in pain.  Full of inspiration and advice, a great read. Anne

January 23, 2017

Film Review - Mother's Day By Director Garry Marshall

From the same director Gary Marshall who produced Pretty Women and Valentines Day. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Julia Roberts.


Mother's Day focuses on the joys of motherhood and the relationships of these women and their families leading up to mothers day. Filled with plenty of joy and humor. An enjoyable film. Anne

January 16, 2017

Film Review - The Dressmaker By Director Jocelyn Moorehouse

Starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving.
Winner of 5 AACTA Awards.
"Funny, poignant and full of heart.... destined to be an Aussie classic"- The Australian Women's Weekly.



The Dressmaker is a story about a beautiful young lady Tilly Dunnage who after years of working in Parisian fashion houses, returns home to a small outback Australian town. Using her style and charm she transforms the women of the town, deals with a past tragedy and falls in love along away.
A great story, Anne

January 09, 2017

Book Review - I am Malala : How one girl stood up for education and changed the world By Malala Yousafzai with Patricia Mc Cormick

'Malala is an inspiration to girl's and women all over the world' J.K Rowling.
Malala fought for her right to be educated, and payed the price when she was targeted by the Taliban on the way home from school one day.

In I am Malala surviving against all the odds has made her an international symbol of peace and the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The book contains five parts and also some discussion notes, an inspiring read. Anne

January 06, 2017

Movie Club - On The Waterfront

This month the Movie Club will be screening ‘On The Waterfront’, starring Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint, and directed by Elia Kazan.
Filmed in 1954 on location in the docks of New York, the film is a gritty look at the lives of the dock workers, mobs and unions. The film is based on the true stories reported by American investigative journalist Malcolm Johnson in his series Crime on the Waterfront. It is also important to note that while the film is based on Johnson’s investigative reports, the film can also be understood as a justification for Elia Kazan (the director) in his real-life decision to testify against his friends who were involved with the Communist Party. Combine these two layers of real-life inspiration and you get ‘On The Waterfront’. Therefore the political agenda is clear in the film and is highlighted through the character of Terry Malloy (Brando) and his underdog status.
Terry Malloy is an uneducated dock worker, tough and tender at the same time, who is unknowingly used to facilitate the death of Edie’s (Eva Marie Saint) brother who has disobeyed union bosses. This makes Terry question himself and question the status quo. This leads him to be the voice of the dockworkers and to stand up against the mob and the crime riddled docks.


‘On The Waterfront’ won 8 Oscars and impacted the way movies were made and the way actors acted—a move towards realism. The film follows a traditional story-telling structure where the hero (Terry Malloy) wins out against all odds and this is where it falls short. For all its realist depictions, the conclusion wasn’t subversive enough—things turned out all too well for Terry to fit into the realism genre the film sets up. Nonetheless the film has a punchy dialogue and strong characterisation which has made it a classic American film.
The film will be screened on Wednesday 11 January at 6pm at Narellan Library, Corner of Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan. Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided, BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening to share your thoughts about the film and join in a discussion about the film.


January 02, 2017

Book Review - Mindfulness made Simple : an introduction to finding calm through mindfulness and meditation Forward by Elisha Goldstein PHD


Mindfulness made Simple shows you how to bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily life. Mindfulness is widely recognised for its calming, healing and restorative effects.


This book contains a step by step guide to your first meditation plus a further 5 basic and 8 advanced meditations to deepen your practice.
The book contains a number of inspiration quotes and tips. I found chapter 5 very helpful as it lists a number of simple meditations for common concerns eg stress and negative thought patterns. I found this book to be very helpful in deepening my meditation practice. It is easy to read and contains clear and concise instructions to follow. Anne